Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Old Favourites Return With New Cases:
Two of my current favourite mystery writers have new books out this spring. Fred Vargas's The Chalk Circle Man is actually the first in the Adamsberg series, but the fifth to be translated into English. So if you've never read her, this is a great place to start. And you are in for a treat - Vargas is terrific at original and quirky plotting and the dialogue between her characters is highly entertaining. Blue chalk circles are popping up on the sidewalks of Paris enclosing odd, mundane objects. The city is amused until a woman's body is found in one of them. Adamsberg has only just arrived in Paris and his colleagues aren't quite sure what to make of him and his propensity to take long walks. Some of the suspects are equally strange: a rude blind man; a woman who likes to follow strangers at night and has very definite ideas about what one should do on certain days of the week; and an elderly woman who loves to answer lonely hearts classifieds. I read this in almost one sitting - just loved it!
Arnaldur Indridason's mysteries feature Erlendur of the Reykjavik police - possibly the only Icelander, fictional or otherwise, who prefers the winters to the summers (keep in mind that Iceland only gets about two hours of daylight during the dead of winter). He is a good detective, but an unhappy man - divorced and estranged from his children, although he keeps trying to build a relationship with his drug addicted daughter. He's also continually haunted by the childhood trauma of losing his young brother during a blizzard. In his latest case, Arctic Chill, a young Thai boy is found murdered near his home and the ensuing investigation brings out some of the racial tensions brewing in Icelandic society. The title is apt - the identity of the killer will indeed be chilling. I've read four previous Erlendur mysteries - this is my favourite to date.
I'm so far behind in this next series, but can you believe that Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is ten years old this year? And gosh darn it all, the tenth book also comes out - again with a wonderful title: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. Raise your china cups and crook your pinkies to Mma Ramotswe! (P.S. I digress, but McCall Smith also has a stand alone novel out this spring that I have read. La's Orchestra Saves the World is not part of any of his many detective series', but is a warm tale about a woman living in the English countryside during WWII who brings the eccentric characters of the village together when she organizes an amateur orchestra to keep up morale. For the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society fans among you.)
The Redeemer - Jo Nesbo's fourth book in his Harry Hole thriller series. I'll admit my palms sweat too much while reading him and his books are not for the faint of heart, but my god, can he tell a story!
The Stand-out Stand Alone:
And the Come-back Classics:
And coming soon are three re-issues of Gladys Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley mysteries. Some of you may have seen the BBC series that has run on PBS a number of times, starring Diana Rigg as Adela Bradley, the multiple divorcee with an interest in Freud and a chauffeur sidekick. Mitchell had a very prolific writing career starting in the 1920s and was a member of the Detection Club that included Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. Much of her work is out of print, so maybe this is the start of a revival. I've certainly never read any of these mysteries but this is my favourite era of crime writing, so I'll definitely be digging in. The Saltmarsh Murders, Tom Brown's Body and When Last I Died will all be out at the end of May.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Well, here's another use for blank paper. If you (or kids you know) can handle an exacto knife with ease, or are origami enthusiasts, then The Paper Architect: Fold-it-Yourself Buildings and Structures is just the coolest thing ever. The authors have provided templates and instructions to create twenty, three dimensional replicas of famous landmarks from the Eiffel Tower to the Taj Mahal, The Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the Colosseum. Each project is graded for difficulty from easy (the Parthenon) to advanced (Gaudi's Sagrada Familia). Hours of fun and papercuts await.
And finally, there's Simon Critchley's The Book of Dead Philosophers which on the surface may look to be a downer, but is actually a fascinating series of entries on the various bizarre and frequently ironic ways in which philosophers met their end. To get a flavour of the book, you can read his list of top ten philosophers' deaths here.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
The nominees for the 2009 Evergreen Award were announced last week at the OLA Superconference. This award is given to a favourite adult book written by a living Canadian author and voted on by Ontario library patrons (how thrilled am I to see Christopher Plummer included!) The winner will be announced at next year's OLA. Congratulations to the 2008 winner, Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes and to this year's shortlist:
The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Coventry by Helen Humphreys
Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott
In Spite of Myself: A Memoir by Christopher Plummer
The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
The Outlander by Gil Adamson
Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth by Margaret Atwood
Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese
There has been lots of media coverage of John Updike's death last week and you can easily find obituaries such as this one from the Guardian online if you want a brief overview of his life. He was a prolific writer and if the tributes have inspired you to dip into some of his work, may I suggest starting with the short stories - a genre that he absolutely excelled in. You can find examples in almost any literary anthology, or pick up his collection The Early Stories. At over 800 pages, this collection will certainly whet your appetite for more of his work. For novels, his Rabbit Angstrom books are the most famous, but give his Henry Bech novels a try - they portray the life of a writer, somewhat similar to Updike's own, over several decades. And if you want a writer's appreciation and a very funny read to boot, do pick up Nicholson Baker's hilarious U and I, a memoir about not quite meeting his literary idol. Recommended reading for Alain de Botton and Geoff Dyer fans and a hoot even if you're not a fan of Updike himself (though I bet Baker will convert you.)
Congrats also goes out to Linda Ludke from London Public Library who won the OPLA's Children's Librarian of the Year Award and Dinah Gough from Oshawa Public Library who won the OPLA's Excellence in Youth Services Award.
The full list of OLA winners can be found here.